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Songs About Years

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 2nd 2022
The years that mean something need to be sung about
A few years ago, I did a list of songs with actual years in the titles. At the time, someone mentioned that I should look at songs about years passing by but I had other ideas and so it fell into the backlots of my mind.

Recently, someone decided to read through all of my older columns, and she came up with the same idea. She suggested it, gave me some ideas for songs, and asked if I could do it for her.

That was back in April.

Better late than never, I guess!

year, song, music
One of many ways to indicate a year has passed… (Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay)

Generally put, a year is the period of time it takes for a body to rotate around its star. On Earth, a year is 365.25 days (or thereabouts); Mars, on the other hand, has a year of around 687 Earth days (670-ish Mars days). And that's today's rather confusing science lesson.

Anyway, what that means is that these are songs about years, either a set number or the nebulous concept of years in general. And, wow, were there a lot to go through! For that reason, the word "year" or "years" needs to be in the title. I also decided on no songs with actual years in the title, and no songs with ages in the titles either.

Apart from that, the usual rules – one song per artist, one version of each song, I need to like the song. I have also decided on no comedy songs. And, for what it's worth, a light-year is a measure of distance, not time, so songs about light-years won't be included either.

Songs about years!

'It Was A Very Good Year' by Frank Sinatra (1965)

Come on! I had to include this one. And a fine way to start the list. When I look at my favourite Sinatra songs, most come from the 1960s, and this is one of his better ones, in my opinion.

'Years May Come, Years May Go' by Herman's Hermits (1970)

Not the sort of goofy track normally associated with this band, this is a more sombre song without going into depressing territory. It's also a fine showcase of the band's vocal talents.

'Reelin' In the Years' by Steely Dan (1972)

Looking back on events and realising they were not that good, this is a classic track that I still hear today. It is such a wonderful song, and worthy of being remembered.

'1000 Years' by Rick Springfield (1972)

Early Springfield, from not long after he left the band Zoot. It may be a little slow in parts, but the chorus is very sin-along-able. Little known today, but that should change.

'Rock And Roll (I Gave You All The Best Years Of My Life)' by Kevin Johnson (1973)

And we hit the really depressing song of this list. While most people are aware of the Mac Davis cover, I prefer Australian Johnson's original, about how music actually let the guy down. Damn…

'Year Of The Cat' by Al Stewart (1976)

I have read Stewart's explanation of the song (a North Africa love affair in 1975, the Vietnamese year of the cat, and taking cues from Casablanca), but the lyrics still leave me confused. Still, what a great sounding song.

'Golden Years' by David Bowie (1976)

While not one of my very favourite Bowie songs, this is still a really good track. Fun fact – Bowie wrote it for Elvis Presley, who rejected it.

'All Those Years Ago' by George Harrison (1981)

A song written in the wake of the murder of John Lennon, this is a celebration of his relationship with his fellow former Beatle. One of Harrison's many great solo tracks.

'Best Years Of Our Lives' by Modern Romance (1982)

The cover version by the Baha Men is possibly better known today, but this fun bit of pop that came out as the New Romantics topped the charts still holds as a great celebration of life.

'The Best Years Of Our Lives' by Richard Clapton (1982)

Richard Clapton released so many great songs and this is one of the better ones. It's another song about living for today, that these are our best years, and it is a song that deserves more love.

'New Year's Day' by U2 (1983)

It's early U2, so it's a protest song, but also includes themes of love. That's just the way things went back then. Still, this is regarded as one of their better songs and for good reason – Bono's voice is in fine form and the band is tight.

'Through The Years' by Tin Finn (1983)

Finn's Escapade album was packed with great tunes, and this is one of them. With that ubiquitous saxophone solo, it is just a song about the past and its impacts and is a strong track.

'Tender Years' by John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown Band (1983)

From the film Eddie And The Cruisers, this is a song that I have come to appreciate much more as I get older. Strong track.

'50 Years' by Uncanny X-Men (1985)

This song is a little bittersweet for me. At the end of high school, we went on a schoolies weekend to Aldinga, and we played this song and it made us all think about the future. To me, it is that powerful. I don't care that Brian Mannix does not have the best voice or that its sentiments are a little twee – this makes me think about the past and where I've ended up almost 40 years later…

'Holding Back the Years' by Simply Red (1986)

Another slower track, and one of my favourite Simply Red songs. It's about not wanting the years to progress, looking for something missing, that sort of thing. And it is beautiful.

'The Living Years' by Mike & The Mechanics (1988)

A sad song, about Mike Rutherford's father passing away, and him now telling everyone to make the years you have together count. A sentiment that holds true today. Many find it mawkish, but I really like it.

'Young Years' by Dragon (1989)

Looking back on times gone by, this is one of Dragon's last charting hits, and is a fine addition to their canon. Uplifting and glorious, and a fine way to remember singer Marc Hunter.

'Forgotten Years' by Midnight Oil (1990)

We should remember those who died fighting in wars, but let's not have any more wars, okay? That's the gist of this great song from Australia's foremost protest band.

'After All These Years' by Ringo Starr (1992)

Even after so long in the spotlight, Ringo still remembers what it was like back when rock was new. I think a lot of his solo work is downgraded, but I find much of it quite enjoyable. This is no exception.

'Next Year' by Foo Fighters (1999)

And we close out with Dave Grohl and co. It's about going away and seeing the loved ones in a year's time. I have heard it said that it was about the USA using the space race to stop people thinking about Vietnam, and then again using space exploration to stop people thinking about the US's wars in the 90s.

Twenty songs about years! When I started this, I was not ready for it to be so focused on the second half of the twentieth century – 1965 to 1999 is not a wide spread of years, with the majority coming from the 1980s. It's been a long time since I had so many 1980s songs in one column, and even longer since I had no songs from the twenty-first century. That was an accident, not by design.

And so, with all of that out there, I hope you found something you enjoyed in this long list.


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